This weekend, SpaceX did something no private company has ever done before. It launched two rockets within 48 hours of each other – and it landed both of them too, for good measure.
The first launch was on Friday at 3.10pm EDT (8.10pm BST) from Cape Canaveral in Florida. This Falcon 9 rocket had flown and landed before, and this time it launched Bulgaria’s first ever communications satellite into geostationary orbit – called BulgariaSat-1. The first stage of the rocket then landed on the drone ship called Of Course I Still Love You.
On Sunday, we got another. At 4.25pm EDT (9.25pm BST), SpaceX launched 10 satellites into low-Earth orbit for communications company Iridium. This launch took place from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with the first stage then landing on the drone ship Just Read the Instructions.
It was a monumental double-header for the relatively fledgling private company. This was made possible after the initial launch was delayed, but it was still no mean feat. While the launches were from different locations, the company still needed to manage both.
This was not the quickest launch turnaround in history. As far as I can tell, that belongs to the Vostok 3 and 4 missions in the Soviet Union on August 11 and 12, 1962. Those were from the same pad in Baikonur, Kazakhstan, launching two manned missions into orbit.
SpaceX has often touted its quick turnaround time as a selling point. Their goal eventually is to reuse the same pad within 24 hours, so this is a good step in that direction. By landing and reusing these rockets, they are proving how they can turnaround their hardware. And with launch costs drastically below their competitors, things are looking good. They have relaunched two of their rockets now.
They’re also launching rockets faster than ever before. They have nine launches under their belt already this year, which is equal to their most ever in a single year, which they achieved in 2016. Although note, they were out of action for a while last year due to that explosion.
We haven't got long to wait for the next SpaceX mission. It's expected to launch as soon as early July. This year, we’re also expecting to see the first launch of the company’s huge new Falcon Heavy rocket.
But with a successful double-header behind them, they probably deserve a bit of a rest.